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Trim calories, not taste, from festive holiday fare

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’Tis the season to be over-eating during the holidays. However, there are some simple ways to trim your plate. One is to use a smaller plate for holiday meals. Second is to never go to a party hungry or sit down right next to the food. Third is to make changes in traditional festive fare to decrease calories, increase nutrition and still keep it lip-smacking.

Here is an example of how to lighten up that big Christmas dinner:

Trim the Turkey: Turkey is one of the most popular main courses the world over for Christmas dinner. Steer clear of fatty dark meat (thighs, wings, legs, drumsticks) and opt for light meat (breast). Keep the skin on the turkey while roasting to keep the meat moist. The fat in the skin won’t soak into the meat while roasting. Do take off the skin before eating. A 3-ounce (palm-sized) serving of white meat turkey without skin saves some 40 calories over its dark meat skin-on counterpart.

If goose is the preferred bird, roast it on a wire rack and pierce the skin so the fat drains out while cooking. There is no white meat on goose (it’s all dark), but do take the skin off before eating to cut down on extra fat calories.

To cut down on sodium, season turkey or goose with fresh herbs such as rosemary, oregano, sage and parsley rather than a seasoned salt.

If you can’t live without gravy, make a healthier one. Refrigerate pan juices until the fat hardens and is easy to remove. Combine these juices with low-sodium chicken broth, dry white wine and a little flour or cornstarch to thicken. Drizzle rather than douse your meat with gravy.

A low-calorie, high-nutrition Christmas with friends overlooking the Charlotte Amalie Harbor in St. Thomas, USVI. PHOTO/DEAN BARNES

A low-calorie, high-nutrition Christmas with friends overlooking the Charlotte Amalie Harbor in St. Thomas, USVI. PHOTO/DEAN BARNES

Un-Stuffed Stuffing. Swap white for whole wheat or whole grain bread to add tummy-filling fiber to this dish. Then shift the proportions of bread to veggies to lower calories and bump up the nutrients. Try adding plenty of chopped celery, onions and garlic as well as adding other veggies such as shredded carrots, shredded zucchini and sliced mushrooms to stuffing. Fruits such as chopped apples, pears or raisins are great additions, too. These veggies and fruit also add much needed moisture. This means there’s no need to stir in high-fat turkey pan drippings. If you do need extra liquid, try low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or applesauce.

Half & Half Potatoes. Shake up grandma’s mashed potatoes recipe by substituting half of the potatoes with cooked cauliflower, carrots or broccoli. This adds great flavor, texture and color in the case of the orange and green veggies. Cut calories and salt further by whipping this dish up with skim milk, low sodium chicken broth and a little black pepper, parsley and garlic powder for seasoning.

For those celebrating Hanukkah, oven bake those latkes (potato pancakes) on a pan coated with a thin layer of extra-virgin olive or canola oil. Instead of sour cream, top latkes with Greek yogurt and chunky unsweetened applesauce.

Wise Sides. Instead of the customary green bean casserole, move up to superfood veggies such as Brussels sprouts. Oven-roasting Brussels sprouts, along with other nutrient-rich choices such as kale, red bell peppers and butternut squash, brings out natural sugars and creates a delightful caramelized taste. Add fresh rosemary and thyme for extra zip. If you can’t do without the green beans, top them with a few slivered almonds and crumbles of blue cheese. These two ingredients pack crunch and a blast of bold flavor in small portions.

Fitting Desserts. It’s relatively easy to cut down on sugar, salt and fat in a cake, cookies, muffins and sweet breads. Simply cut 1 cup of sugar to 2/3 cup, use 1 egg and 1 egg white in place of two eggs, replace half the amount of butter with applesauce and cut the salt in half. Boost fiber by substituting half the white flour for whole-wheat flour. This last tip works especially well with gingerbread.

Try these tasty tricks as well as including physical activity in your day and you’ll be all set for a healthy New Year.

Carol Bareuther is a registered dietitian and freelance health and nutrition writer. Contact her through www.the-triton.com/author/carol-bareuther.

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